Earthjustice today raised questions regarding the Bush administration’s intent to tap John Peter Suarez for a key environmental post. The White House yesterday announced their intention to nominate Mr. Suarez to be Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance at the US Environmental Protection Agency. The position is responsible for ensuring the enforcement of federal environmental laws and programs and requires confirmation from the Senate.
“Leading EPA’s federal enforcement program is a major responsibility that requires a demonstrated commitment to enforcing environmental laws and programs,” said Maria Weidner of Earthjustice. “While Mr. Suarez has an enforcement background, it is of concern to us that he seems to lack an environmental track record.”
Suarez has been the director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement since 1999. He worked for the US Attorney’s Office from 1992 until 1998, during which time he focused on issues such as tax evasion, drug enforcement, and mail fraud. Before accepting the gaming enforcement directorship in January of 1999, he served for a short time as Assistant Counsel to the Governor of New Jersey and with the Division of Criminal Justice.
Suarez is the second person to be nominated to head EPA’s enforcement and compliance program. The Bush administration’s original nominee — Donald Schregardus — withdrew his name from consideration in September after facing opposition from the public and several Senators due to his lax environmental record as director of Ohio EPA.
“We urge the Senate to carefully review whether Mr. Suarez vigorously enforced gaming laws in his current position, and to consider what issues could arise as a result of his apparent lack of experience with environmental programs and laws,” Weidner concluded.